Flimsy flip-flops not so foot-friendly

THE sun has finally made an appearance on the North Shore and it has most of us trading in our jeans for skirts, our boots for flip-flops.

But hang on just a second before reaching for that pair of Havaianas. Foot experts are warning that the excessive use of flip-flops during the summer can lead to a whole host of problems.

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"I see and usually receive 20 calls a month from patients of mine who were doing well and had a problem that was under really good control and then the weather got warm and they start wearing their flip-flops," says Dr. Lee Holton, a podiatrist in North Vancouver.

"They start to redevelop some of their old problems or actually cause new problems."

Some of those problems include plantar fasciitis - an irritation and swelling of the thick tissue at the bottom of the foot, and Morton's neuromas, which causes nerves to be inflamed. Bunion and joint problems are also exaggerated, said Holton.

His advice is simply to limit the length of time you're wearing flip-flops to a couple of hours.

But if you're going to be rocking them at all, it might be useful to look at some higher end options.

North Vancouver's Kintec Footwear and Orthotics offers up a range of footwear from brands like Birkenstock and Sole, which claim to be a lot easier on feet than their drugstore counterparts.

"The problem with a typical flip is that you get a very thin foam sole foot bed and a really loose-fitting strap, so the foot itself doesn't get held on the flip-flop very well," said Graham Archer, vice-president of Kintec.

Flip-flops offered at Kintec, however, have molded foot beds, which cup the heel and provide support through the arch. They are also made of denser foams and have a rubber outsole, which allows for protection against rocks and roots.

At Kintec, flip-flops are priced between $80 and $100 - a far cry from what most people are used to spending on them. But Archer says it's worth it in the long run.

"They're not designed to be worn all the day," he says. "But if you're going to use them for typical light summer use . . . they're quite appropriate; they can actually be quite good for the feet because of the support they give."

They'll also outlast a cheapie pair by a couple of seasons, he added.

Dr. Holton echoed those thoughts. "If you had to choose between a more expensive flip-flop and something that's $5, I would advocate definitely the more expensive one, but it's still not to be worn for an extended period of time," he says.

"Regardless of how supportive they are, they are still a sandal, they're not a closed-in shoe and given more than a day or two they're going to cause you the same problems."

Kintec Footwear and Orthotics is located at 975 Marine Dr. in North Vancouver. For more information go to www.kintec. net.

mkrishnan@nsnews.com

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